Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Pigeons are a diverse group, with over 360 types worldwide, varying by geographic location and native language.
- They are commonly found in urban landscapes, considered both beautiful creatures and pests.
- Pigeons have played important roles in human history as companions, messengers, and even regional delicacies.
- Some species of pigeons produce crop milk, a substance similar to mammal milk, to feed their young.
- Many species of pigeons are endangered or facing population decline due to habitat destruction, overhunting, and predation by invasive species.
With over 360 types of pigeons worldwide, it’s no wonder they are one of the most familiar birds.
Pigeons and doves are technically the same. And while they are both in the Columbidae family, they are differentiated mainly by size. Pigeons are generally considered to be larger than doves.
Their common names can also vary due to geographic location and native language. In some places, pigeons have the common name dove,” and vice versa. For the purposes of this article, we will focus only on species identified as pigeon birds.
Their hardiness and ability to adapt have given the pigeon a mixed reputation. Some consider them beautiful creatures worthy of admiration. Others believe them to be terrible pests that need to be controlled or eradicated.
Either way, they are a common sight in urban landscapes. They dot city architecture and flock to open areas. They are tempted by seeds and offerings sprinkled by humans.
Sometimes their unwanted presence leads to anti-bird structures. Other times, food and nesting materials are presented to give them a safe harbor.
Pigeons are much more than “rats with wings” or pesky birds that roost in signs and coo at humans as if to say, “Feed the birds.”
Pigeons hold an important place in human history. They have been religious and cultural icons. They have been companions, faithful messengers, wartime heroes, and even regional delicacies.
What Are Pigeons Most Known For?
This is subjective to what part of the world you live in.
In urban areas, they are often thought of as birds that live side-by-side with humans. They seem to benefit and thrive while doing so. They are often kept as pets or, at the very least, fed with friendly intentions.
In some parts of the world, they are often hunted and fed upon. In some regions, they are a culinary delicacy. In others, they are just hunted as pests. Overhunting has led many species to their ultimate demise.
Historically, they are a species that has been easy to domesticate. They are one of the few types of birds that have reached near-complete domestication. Perhaps what they are best known for is their ability to live among humans with ease. This is especially true in cities and villages across the globe.
What is something most people don’t know about pigeons?
Pigeons are one of only three species of birds that produce a milk-like substance known as crop milk to feed their babies.
Crop milk, or pigeon milk, is made in the bird’s crop during the lactation period. This period lasts from a few days before an egg hatches and continues up to ten days after hatching.
Like mammal milk, crop milk contains nutrients that help build the immune systems of the chicks. This gives them a better chance to survive. Both parents are able to produce crop milk to feed the babies.
Another fun fact is that they are in the same family as the long-extinct Dodo bird.
And, sadly, like the dodo, many species of modern pigeons are facing the same fate. Hunting creatures into extinction is something we should reconsider and avoid at all costs.
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Notable Species of Pigeons
As noted above, there are over 350 different species classified under the scientific name Columbidae. Birds in this family have short legs, short bills, and small heads on large, compact bodies.
They have large wings with eleven primary feathers. They have strong wing muscles and are considered to be some of the strongest fliers of all birds.
Some species are spread worldwide. Others have very small enclaves in which they live. Many smaller populations are on isolated islands in the middle of the ocean. Humans hardly ever see some of these more isolated species. Which, when thinking of pigeons in the city, seems strange and unlikely.
1. Genus Columba
The genus Columba is composed of large to medium-sized pigeons. It was first coined by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. It is derived from the Greek kolumbos, which means “diver.” It is thought that the birds’ motion while flying resembles that of someone swimming.
1.1 Rock pigeon (Columba livia) – 12.5 inches (32 cm)
This is perhaps the species most thought of when describing pigeons as a whole. The “city pigeon” is multicolored. It has an iridescent purple and green head and neck. It has a gray body and wings.
Rock pigeons can vary greatly in their color morphs. These variations depend on their regional habitat. A color variation does not necessarily mean it is a separate species.
Early European settlers brought the rock pigeon to the United States. It has been nearly domesticated over the centuries. These pigeons flourish in urban areas. They live among the human landscape, cooing happily.
There isn’t a huge sexual dimorphism in the rock pigeon. The males are only a bit larger and may show brighter-colored heads or collars. This pigeon lives throughout the world. This species may be the reason that pigeons have a reputation as pests.
1.2 Sri Lanka Woodpigeon (Columba torringtoniae) – 14.25 inches (36 cm)
A largely muted pigeon with a flashy black and white patch at the back of the neck. The Sri Lanka wood pigeon imitates owls with its woo-oo call in the damp forests of Sri Lanka.
Endemic to the region, this pigeon is considered a vulnerable species. Their numbers are decreasing at a steady rate year after year.
This pigeon is arboreal. It resides in the lowland forests, where it feeds on fruiting trees. The destruction of its natural habitat and food sources is contributing to its decline.
1.3 Pale-capped pigeon (Columba punicea) – 14.25–16 inches (36–40.6 cm)
Another large pigeon species is also known as the purple wood pigeon. The pale-capped pigeon is chestnut brown with a gray crown, purple underbelly, and green neck.
They are considered “Old World” pigeons and lack any distinct color patterns on the back of the neck.
They eat berries and sometimes seeds, preferring to forage in the early morning hours. They nest low in trees and rarely lay more than a single egg. They make a deep, resonating call.
They live in small flocks throughout the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. And though they inhabit many areas, their populations are localized and migrate only to a few locations. They are also considered vulnerable species due to habitat destruction and overhunting.
1.4 Silvery Pigeon (Columba argentina) – 14.25 inches (36 cm)
The silvery pigeon is a critically endangered species. It was considered extinct until a wild population was spotted on a remote island near Indonesia in 2008. This beautiful bird is covered in pale, silver-gray plumage with black flight feathers.
Their distinct coloration varies greatly from that of typical pigeons. This is helpful in flight to dissuade predators. When in a large flock, their silver color shimmers in the sun. This makes it difficult for a predator to see individual birds to attack.
The specific reasons for their few numbers are unclear. But a combination of declining natural habitats and invasive predators are contributors. They are also poached as exotic pets. It is suspected that fewer than 50 individuals remain in the wild.
1.5 White-collared pigeon (Columba albitorques) – 13 inches (33 cm)
The white-collared pigeon is a medium-sized bird. It is slate gray with a white head cap and collar. It also has a white-banded beak. In flight, it displays white bands across the wings.
It is often mistaken for the rock pigeon, except for the white collar. It is also less vocal than its relative.
This pigeon is not a migratory species. It is endemic to the Ethiopian highlands. It resides on rocky cliffs and in gorges. It also occupies the countryside and city centers, closer to human activity.
1.6 Metallic pigeon (Columba vitiensis) – 14.5 inches (37 cm)
The metallic pigeon is also known as the white-throated pigeon. It gets its name from its iridescent, sheeny plumage and pale neck markings. These neck markings vary in color depending on the island they inhabit.
They have purple feet and large claws. Their bills are yellow, and they have yellow-red eyes.
It makes its home in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific Islands. There, it feeds on seeds, grains, berries, and fruit, mainly figs. They flit from forests to low-lying ground while eating.
They are quite content among humans, especially on the smaller islands. There is some movement of flocks between closer islands, but not enough for them to be considered migratory.
1.7 Hill pigeon (Columba rupestris) – 13 inches (33 cm)
The hill pigeon’s tail distinguishes it from the common rock pigeon despite being similar in size and color. They are mostly gray throughout the body, with black bars on the wings. They have a white patch on their backs and a distinct white band on the tail.
There is little dimorphism in coloring, though juveniles tend to be more brownish-tinged.
The hill pigeon can be found across South, Central, and East Asia. This pigeon prefers higher altitudes, above 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Here, it nests in rocky cliffs, mountain peaks, and alpine grasslands. They feed on grains, shoots, leaves, and sometimes small snails. They have also been spotted snacking on undigested food from the kiang, a local species of wild ass on the Tibetan plateau.
1.8 Snow pigeon (Columba leuconota) – 12 inches (30.5 cm)
The snow pigeon has a white and light brown body, a black head, and black wing tips. It resides in the rocky hills and cliffs of South, Southeast, and Central Asia. They have a large, widely distributed population with stable numbers.
A common bird sighted in this region, they roost in cliff nests and feed in low-lying fields and valleys.
They tend to co-mingle with hill pigeons and rock pigeons but seem more wary of humans. They usually live in pairs or small flocks but nest in larger colonies. They reuse their nests yearly, laying two eggs per pair.
1.9 Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea) – 16.14 inches (41 cm)
Also known as the African rock pigeon, the speckled pigeon gets its name from its speckled wings and back.
It is mostly a dark brown color with a blue-gray body and head. It has a distinct red ring around its eye. It is sometimes also referred to as a guinea pigeon, as its coloring resembles that of a guinea fowl.
The speckled pigeon resides in Africa, south of the Sahara. There, it gathers in large numbers to eat grain and ground nuts. It is common in areas of human habitation. It makes its nests in buildings as well as rocky outcroppings.
1.10 Trocaz Pigeon (Columba trocaz) – 15.7 to 17.7 inches (40 to 45 cm)
The Trocaz or Madeira Laurel pigeon is endemic to the island of Madeira, Portugal. It is mostly gray, with a pinkish breast, a violet-sheen back, and a gray neck.
Its coloring is similar to that of the common wood pigeon, except for its silvery neck and lack of white wings. In flight, this pigeon displays a very prominent white band across its tail.
It makes its home in the Laurel forests, where it feeds on the berries and leaves of the island’s endemic plants. Outside of the forest, it feasts on human crops, mainly cabbages!
It is a shy variety, perhaps due to its being hunted and poisoned for destroying crops.
2. Genus Patagioenas
From the Greek patageō meaning “to clatter,” the genus Patagioenas is composed of New World pigeons.
Once part of the greater genus Columba, it is now proven to have branched off about 8 million years ago. The pigeons in this genus are large birds with distinct “triple coo” calls.
2.1 Band-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas fasciata) – 13 to 16 inches (33 to 40 cm)
The band-tailed pigeon is the largest pigeon in North America.
They are chunky birds, pale gray in color. They have dark wingtips and a pale tip to the tail. They have a distinct white crescent on the neck, which sets them apart from the rock pigeon. They have a black-tipped bill and yellow feet.
Their preferred habitat is the forests of the Pacific Coast and the Southwestern United States. Though they have extended populations deep into Mexico and South America. They travel an average of 3 miles from their nests to feed daily.
2.2 White-crowned Pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala) – 13.5 inches (34 cm)
The white-crowned pigeon is a sleek, dark gray pigeon with a white crown and white eyes.
This pigeon lives in the Caribbean Islands in mangrove forests. It crosses the ocean to feed in Southern Florida on fruit trees. Some of these commutes can traverse over 300 miles.
A popular game bird in the Caribbean, this pigeon has been overhunted in recent years. One of its main food sources, the fruit of the poisonwood tree, is also becoming scarce.
Due to these factors, their numbers are steadily declining. It is considered “near threatened” on the IUCN red list.
2.3 Red-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas flavirostris) – 14.5 inches (37 cm)
Red-billed pigeons are robust, slate-gray pigeons. They have a dark maroon head, neck, and wings. Their bellies and tails are blue-gray.
They do not have iridescent plumage. They have pale red eyes with an orange ring of feathers around them. They also have red beaks, hence their name.
They live in the dry woods of Mexico and Central America. They have small populations in Texas, along the Rio Grande. It feeds on wild fruits and berries in its forest habitat. They also forage on the ground in pairs or small flocks.
2.4 Ring-tailed Pigeon (Patagioenas caribaea) – 15 to 19 inches (38 to 48.5 cm)
The ring-tailed pigeon is a large pigeon endemic to Jamaica.
The adult male’s head, neck, and underbelly are muted gray with a pink hue. It has a metallic green or bronze patch on the back of its neck. The tail is gray with a darker band across its middle.
They have orange eyes surrounded by bare red skin. The adult female appears similar but with olive or brown wings and a redder underbelly. The back of the neck is not as brilliantly iridescent.
It forages for fruit and seeds in the canopies of forests, hills, and mountains.
2.5 Chilean Pigeon (Patagioenas araucana) – 14 to 15 inches (35 to 37 cm)
The Chilean pigeon is so-called because it makes its home in the Southern temperate forests of Chile.
They are mostly reddish purple with iridescent green on the nape of the neck. They have a narrow white line across the top of this green patch.
The lower parts and wings of this pigeon are gray. They have purple skin that highlights their orange eyes.
These pigeons feed mostly on fruit but can also be found foraging in open fields for seeds. They nest in bamboo thickets, where there can be hundreds of breeding pairs. Each pair makes a temporary nest during the breeding season and lays a solitary egg.
2.6 Bare-eyed Pigeon (Patagioenas corensis) – 13 inches (32 cm)
The bare-eyed pigeon has orangey eyes surrounded by bare skin and blue and brown feathers. This is a distinct facial feature that resembles someone with heavy eyeliner!
They have a mauve head, neck, and breast. The neck and upper back have a bronze-black, scaly appearance. The lower back and bottom are pale bluish-gray. The chin and closed wing show a broad white patch.
These birds can be found on the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Venezuela. They also inhabit the near-shore islands of the region. They prefer thorn scrub, cactus, mangroves, and some cultivated areas. It forages for fruit and seeds from trees and nearby crops.
2.7 Spot-winged Pigeon (Patagioenas maculosa) – 13 inches (32 cm)
The spot-winged pigeon gets its name from the distinct white spots on the tops of its dark brown wing coverts. They have a purplish pink forehead, crown, neck, and breast.
The rest of the head and underbelly are gray. The wings are mostly black above and pale gray below, with the spotting as noted above. The females and juveniles are similarly colored but overall duller.
They are found in southeastern Bolivia, Paraguay, southern Brazil, Uruguay, and south-central Argentina.
They inhabit arid to semi-arid open woodland and scrub. They do not tend to inhabit towns. They eat mostly seeds, preferring rice and sunflowers. They are a very popular game bird in their native region.
2.8 Scaly-naped Pigeon (Patagioenas squamosa) – 14 to 16 inches (35 to 41 cm)
The scaly-naped pigeon, also called the red-necked pigeon, makes its home in the Caribbean.
This variety is a large, slate gray bird with maroon plumage around the neck. These feathers appear scaly, hence their name. These birds have red eyes surrounded by a patch of bare skin. This patch is red in males and yellow in females.
This pigeon is usually found in pairs or small groups, where they forage for fruits and seeds. Their populations are on the decline due to hurricane damage to their habitat and overhunting, especially in Puerto Rico.
2.9 Short-billed Pigeon (Patagioenas nigrirostris) – 10.4 inches (26.5 cm)
The short-billed pigeon is a medium-sized bird that is mostly dark blackish-purple. It has a brownish belly and an olive-brown back.
The tail and flight feathers are darker, almost black. They have a black bill and purple-red legs and eyes.
It makes its home in the lowland forest canopies of Central America. Ranging from southern Mexico to northern Columbia. This bird can be spotted in pairs as it forages for mistletoe, fruits, and berries. It has also been seen in urban areas, eating grit and small invertebrates.
2.10 Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis) – 11.8 to 12.6 inches (30 to 32 cm)
The pale-vented pigeon has a dull purple head, breast, and upper plumage. They have a copper-colored nape and a pale cream throat. The lower back, tail, and underparts are dark gray to pale gray.
Unlike other similarly colored pigeons, the pale-vented pigeon does not have iridescent feathers. They have a black bill and red legs, iris, and eyering.
Females and juveniles are similar in color but duller. They are found in southern Mexico, Bolivia, and northern Argentina. They are common at forest edges, riverbanks, and other partially open areas. It feeds on small fruits, berries, and seeds.
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3. Genus Ducula
From the Latin ducis, meaning “leader,” this genus consists of large to very large birds. Often referred to as “Imperial” pigeons, they have heavy bodies and broad tails. Subject to habitat loss and heavy predation, this genus is considered to be the most threatened across the globe.
3.1 Spotted Imperial Pigeon (Ducula carola) – 13 to 15 inches (32 to 38 cm)
The spotted imperial pigeon is also known as the gray-necked imperial pigeon. It is endemic to the Philippines.
It has an ashy gray head and neck. Its back and wings are gray, with black spots and splashes of glossy green. They have dark tails with a greenish gloss. They have cream throats and dark gray breasts.
The females and juveniles are similarly colored but lack the white crescent on the breast.
This pigeon lives in groups of 30 individuals in forests and forest edges but goes to shorelines to feed.
It is a vulnerable species threatened by habitat loss and hunting. It is illegal to hunt, capture, or possess spotted imperial pigeons under Philippine Law.
3.2 Green Imperial Pigeon (Ducula aenea) – 18 inches (45 cm)
The green imperial pigeon is a large, plump pigeon found in tropical southern Asia.
It has a metallic green back, wings, and tail. Its head and underbelly are white, with maroon on the underside of the tail. Both sexes and juveniles have similar coloring.
This is an arboreal forest bird, widespread from Nepal and India east to Indonesia. It feeds on plant material in the forest canopy.
They are normally solitary but will form small flocks. It builds a stick nest high in the trees, where it will lay a single white egg.
3.3 Goliath Imperial Pigeon (Ducula goliath) – 20 inches (51 cm)
The goliath imperial pigeon is one of the largest species of arboreal pigeon. This massive pigeon has a blue-gray head and neck, with a darker gray upper body and wings.
They have black and chestnut-banded tails. The lower breast is lighter gray, with the belly and flanks a purplish-chestnut color. They have bright red eyes and pink beaks and feet.
These birds have a distinct neck and upper breast appearance. This is due to the bifurcated feathers in that area. Bifurcated means that the feathers are divided into two branches. This makes them appear shaggy.
It is also known as the New Caledonian imperial pigeon. It is endemic to the humid forests of New Caledonia.
3.4 Pied Imperial Pigeon (Ducula bicolor) – 15 to 16 inches (38 to 41 cm)
The pied imperial pigeon is a large, pied species of pigeon. As its name suggests, it has distinct bicolored, or pied, plumage.
It is a mostly white to creamy yellow-colored bird with sharply contrasting black wings. It has a dark-tipped, bluish bill and dark legs. It feeds on fruit from tropical trees, palms, and bushes.
It is found on small islands and coastal regions in Southeast Asia. It has a wide range, from Myanmar and Thailand to throughout Indonesia and east to the Philippines.
It inhabits the forest, woodland, mangrove, plantations, and scrub in its range. It is also found in northern Australia.
3.5 Grey Imperial Pigeon (Ducula pickeringii) – 15 inches (38 cm)
The gray imperial pigeon is a large bird with an elegant, silky appearance.
Their backs and wings are dark gray with an iridescent green sheen. The tail is dark gray. They have a slight white eye ring. They can be confused with the green imperial pigeon but are much duller and darker-winged.
It is an inhabitant of forested offshore islands, such as Borneo and the Philippines. It is typically spotted in pairs in the forest canopy. It feeds on figs and the fruit of the ylang ylang tree.
This bird is considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Its habitat is threatened by logging and development for tourism and farmland. It is also a target of hunters, both for food and as an exotic pet.
4. Genus Treron
Commonly called green pigeons, this genus can be found across Asia and Africa. First identified by ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1816. The name derives from the Greek trērōn meaning “pigeon.” They are set apart from other pigeons due to their green coloration, which is attributed to a carotenoid pigment in their diet.
4.1 Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans) – 9.8 to 11.8 inches (25 to 30 cm)
The pink-necked green pigeon is also known as the rainbow pigeon. It is a sexually dimorphic, medium-sized bird.
Only the male has the pale pink neck that they are named for. The rest of the bird is varying shades of gray, green, and yellow. The wings and tail have black markings.
The female is smaller, with a yellow belly, throat, and face. They have a green crown on the back of the neck. Juveniles are grayer overall.
The pink-necked pigeon has a wide range across the islands of Southeast Asia. They are a non-migratory species that feeds mainly on figs.
They are social birds, often spotted in small groups. They roost communally, sometimes in flocks of hundreds of birds. They lay two eggs in a flimsy nest. They have adapted to living alongside humans and are not considered threatened.
4.2 Yellow-vented Green Pigeon (Treron seimundi) – 12.6 inches (32 cm)
The yellow-vented green pigeon is a dark green pigeon with black-tipped wings and a needle-pointed tail. They have a white patch on the belly and a lemon-yellow vent that is their namesake. They have dark legs and a blue beak and eye ring.
Both sexes are similarly colored. Like many other green pigeons, they forage for food high in the forest canopy.
They are found in Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Their natural habitats are moist lowland forests, mangrove forests, and moist montane forests. They are occasionally spotted in coastal lowlands.
They are not endangered, but they are not commonly seen. They are generally wary of and stay away from humans.
4.3 Thick-billed Green Pigeon (Treron curvirostra) – 10 inches (26 cm)
The thick-billed green pigeon is a small pigeon compared to other green pigeons. They are brilliantly colored birds with green bodies and pale-colored vents.
Their wings are black with brown covers and yellow edges. They have thick yellow-green bills with a red base. They have bright green eye rings, gray crowns, and reddish feet.
They inhabit a wide territory across the eastern Indian Subcontinent, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. There, they range from the Himalayas to Borneo and Sumatra.
Their natural habitats are moist lowland forests and mangrove forests. They feed mainly on figs.
4.4 White-bellied Green Pigeon (Treron sieboldii) – 13 inches (33 cm)
The white-bellied green pigeon is a medium-sized pigeon. It is not to be confused with the much larger white-bellied imperial pigeon.
These pigeons have olive-green wings and a pale belly. They have yellow-green heads and bluish beaks. The males have brighter heads and sport a maroon wing patch.
This pigeon is known for its strange habit of drinking saltwater. Some believe drinking salty water aids digestion. They are often spotted in flocks on coastlines doing just that.
They live in temperate forests in a wide range from East to Southeast Asia. This range includes China, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, India, and Vietnam.
4.5 Bruce’s green pigeon (Treron waalia) – 13 inches (33 cm)
Bruce’s green pigeon is also known as the yellow-bellied fruit pigeon. It is a rather chunky bird that, in spite of its name, is mostly gray.
In some regions, they may appear more green due to their diet. They are similar in appearance to the African green pigeon but sport a yellow belly.
Their vocalizations have been described as “a quiet but maniacal series of sputters, whistles, and cackles.” There is no better way to express this!
They are frugivores, feeding mainly on figs. Their preferred fig is Ficus platyphylla. They are often spotted in small groups, occasionally on their own.
Their habitat is in a variety of savanna and woodland habitats, from Western Asia to East and West Africa.
4.6 Orange-breasted Green Pigeon (Treron bicinctus) – 11.4 inches (29 cm)
The orange-breasted green pigeon is a smaller pigeon. They have green heads and bodies, accented with yellow and black wing tips. They have blue-gray on the napes of their necks.
Males have a narrow band of pink on the breast with bright orange below. Females lack these colorations.
They are found in tropical Asia south of the Himalayas, in the Indian Subcontinent, and across Southeast Asia.
Like other pigeons, they feed mainly on small fruits. They have been observed feeding on Strychnos nux-vomica,or the Strychnine tree. The fruits of this tree are toxic to mammals. They stay in pairs or small flocks, where they forage quietly among the trees.
4.7 Yellow-footed Green Pigeon (Treron phoenicopterus) – 13 inches (33 cm)
The yellow-footed green pigeon is also known as the yellow-legged green pigeon. This is a common pigeon species found in the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia.
In local culture, they are called Haroli, Hariyal, Haitha, or Haitol. It is the state bird of Maharashtra.
They are a chunky species with mostly greenish-yellow plumage. They have a small lilac patch on their shoulders. They have blue eyes with a ring of pink. They have pale green beaks and yellow feet, hence their names!
They forage in flocks, feeding on fruit, mostly figs. They are often seen sunning on the tops of emergent trees in dense forest areas during the early morning hours.
5. Genus Didunculus
The genus of tooth-billed pigeons Sadly, there is only one species of this family that remains alive today. The only other member of this genus, the Tongan tooth-billed pigeon, went extinct somewhere around 2850 BCE.
It is thought that the extinct Dodo bird was genetically closest to this genus. In fact, “Didunculus” means “Little Dodo.”
5.1 Tooth-billed Pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris) – 12 to 15 inches (30.5 to 38 cm)
The tooth-billed pigeon is a larger pigeon, also known as the manumea. It is a dark bird with reddish feet and red bare skin around the eye.
The head, neck, and underbelly are grayish with a slight blue-green iridescence. The tail and wings are deep chestnut. It has a distinct bill, which gives it its name. It is large and bright red, curved, and hooked with tooth-like bumps on the lower jaw.
It has an unusual habit for a pigeon. It drinks by scooping water up in its bill rather than sucking it up using the tongue as a straw.
The tooth-billed pigeon lives only on the island of Samoa, where it is the national bird. It is the only remaining species in its genus. It is critically endangered.
6. Genus Nesoenas
This genus is now considered monotypic, with only one living pigeon species remaining. There is also a species of turtle dove in the genus and the extinct Rodrigues pigeon (Nesoenas rodericanus).
6.1 Pink Pigeon (Nesoenas mayeri) – 14 to 15 inches (36 to 38 cm)
The pink pigeon is not as shocking pink as you may have imagined. Instead, it is mostly pale pinkish-gray with dark brown wings and a rust-colored tail.
They do have a dark pink beak with a white tip and pink feet. They have dark brown eyes surrounded by an eyering of red skin.
The pink pigeon is endemic to the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius, a small island off the east coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. There are also a small number on the predator-free island of Isle aux Aigrettes nearby.
This pigeon was brought back from the brink of extinction in 1991. It is still considered vulnerable, though its numbers have increased. They are up from 10 birds to almost 500 individuals over the past 30 years.
7. Genus Caloenas
From the Greek kalos, meaning “beautiful,” this genus has only one wild species remaining.
The other two birds generally classified in this genus are the spotted green pigeon, Caloenas maculata, and the Kanaka pigeon, Caloenas canacorum, both extinct.
7.1 Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica) – 16 inches (40 cm)
The Nicobar pigeon is by far one of the most stunningly beautiful pigeons alive today. It is also the closest living relative of the extinct dodo bird. It is a large bird with metallic green plumage.
It has a gray head that turns into green and copper hackles. The tail is very short and pure white. They have a dark bill with a blackish knob at the base. They have dull red legs and feet.
This gorgeous bird is found on small islands and in coastal regions along the Indian Ocean and Oceania. The largest population is found on the Nicobar Islands. It flocks from island to island, where it seeks areas with no predators. There, it feeds on nuts and seeds in peace.
These birds have long been hunted for food and their gizzard stones, which are rumored to be used as jewelry.
Conservation efforts have ramped up, but this lovely creature is still traded illegally. It is considered near threatened and its populations are still decreasing.
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Are Pigeons Endangered?
Yes, and no. Many species are on the IUCN endangered list. Even those species not on the list share a common factor across global communities. Their numbers are decreasing.
At the most current count, there are seven species considered endangered. Another two species are Critically Endangered. 11 species are entirely extinct.
The causes of the decimation of these species are generally habitat destruction, overhunting, and predation by invasive animals. Most of these species are eaten locally, and they are simply not recovering from being on the menu.
Endangered Species include:
- Timor Green-pigeon, Treron psittaceus
- Sao Tome Green-pigeon, Treron sanctithome
- Polynesian Imperial-pigeon, Ducula aurorae
- Nukuhiva Imperial Pigeon, Ducula galeata
- Sao Tome Olive Pigeon, Columba thomensis
- Mindoro Imperial Pigeon, Ducula mindorensis
- Comoro Green Pigeon, Treron griveaudi
Critically Endangered Species include:
- Tooth-billed pigeon, Didunculus strigirostris
- Silvery pigeon, Columba argentina
Extinct Species include:
- Dodo, Raphus cucullatus, 1662
- Rodrigues Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas payadeei, 1690s
- Mauritius woodpigeon, Columba thiriouxi, 1730
- Reunion pigeon, Nesoenas dubois, 1750
- Rodrigues solitaire, Pezophaps solitaire, 1770s
- Mauritius Blue Pigeon, Alectroenas nitidissmus, 1840
- Bonin woodpigeon, Columba versicolor, 1889
- Choiseul pigeon, Microgoura meeki, 1904
- Passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, 1914
- Liverpool pigeon, Caloenas maculata, 1928
- Ryukyu woodpigeon, Columba jouyi, 1936
What Part Did Pigeons Play During The World Wars?
The oldest pigeon on record was a 32-year-old captive homing pigeon named Kaiser. This particular bird has a storied history that spans two World Wars!
There were many pigeons utilized as messengers during both World Wars. Kaiser is perhaps the most famous. This bird was the official messenger for Kaiser Wilhelm II. He was captured and became the longest-held prisoner of war in American History.
Homing pigeons are also called messenger, mail, or carrier pigeons. They have been responsible for getting information beyond enemy lines.
These pigeons played a large part in delivering messages to many countries during wartime. Their services began as early as the 6th century.
But their popularity as messengers truly surged during the World Wars. Pigeons were able to fly missions far too dangerous for soldiers to carry out. They were integral to wartime communications. So much so that many vessels incorporated pigeon housing into their design.
For their efforts, 32 pigeons were bestowed with the Dickin Medal, which honors the work of animals in WWII.
Types of Pigeons FAQs
What are groups of pigeons called?
Groups of pigeons have different names, depending on what they are doing. In general, they are called a “flock.” When flying, they are called a “flight.”
Pigeon breeders call them “kits.” They can also be called a “plague” or a “loft.” There are quite a few different names for groups of pigeons, and most are regional.
What are baby pigeons called?
Young pigeons are sometimes called “squabs” or “squeakers.” The latter makes a lot of sense if you’ve ever encountered a baby pigeon. They are noisy! They seem to get louder as they near their fledgling age.
Do pigeons carry diseases?
Like many birds, pigeons can certainly carry diseases. It is estimated that pigeons can carry upwards of 60 types of pathogens.
However, the good news is that the majority of these are not harmful to humans. Most of the harm comes from contact with pigeon feces. This is probably why most people consider pigeons to be pests, since they tend to leave poop wherever they congregate.
Do pigeons like being touched?
In general, it’s not a good idea to try and touch any wild animal, no matter how cute or cuddly they may appear.
Birds as a whole do not seem to care for petting, but they can be trained to become accustomed to physical touch over time.
In many parts of the world, pigeons are kept as pets and can be touched safely. Please don’t try to wrangle a feral pigeon in the park or the forest.
Do pigeons recognize me?
Like many birds, pigeons have the capability to recognize things that are constant in their surroundings.
Birds that are raised in captivity are far more likely to recognize and interact with the people who have raised and cared for them.
Certain species of pigeons have been kept as pets for centuries. These birds have shown the ability to dote on their owners. There have even been instances where a pigeon has recognized a photograph of their owner!
What is the lifespan of a pigeon?
The lifespan of a pigeon varies greatly depending on the species and its habitat. Wild pigeons generally live upwards of six years. Pigeons in captivity can live longer than 15 years.
Most wild birds don’t have the opportunity to live out their fullest lifespan. They often fall prey to predators, disease, or untimely death.